Tupolev Tu-16

The Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO codename: Badger) was a twin-engine jet bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has flown for more than 50 years and, as the Xian H-6, over 120 remain in service with the Chinese air force. 

A versatile design, the Tu-16 was built in numerous specialized variants for reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT), and electronic warfare (ECM). A total of 1507 aircraft was constructed in three plants in the Soviet Union, in 1954-1962. The Tu-16 was also exported to Egypt, Indonesia, and Iraq. It continued to be used by the Air Forces and naval aviation of the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia until 1993.

Tupolev Tu-16
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Tupolev
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1952
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Russia (USSR) 1954 1993 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Tupolev 1509 View

In the late 1940s, the Soviet Union was strongly committed to matching the United States in strategic bombing capability. The Soviets' only long-range bomber at the time was Tupolev's Tu-4 'Bull', a reverse-engineered version of the American B-29 Superfortress. The development of the extremely powerful Mikulin AM-3 turbojet led to the possibility of a large, jet-powered bomber.

The Tupolev design bureau began work on the Tu-88 ("Aircraft N") prototypes in 1950. The Tu-88 first flew on 27 April 1952. After winning a competition against the Ilyushin Il-46, it was approved for production in December 1952. The first production bombers entered service with Frontal Aviation in 1954, receiving the service designation Tu-16. It received the NATO reporting name Badger-A.

It had a new, large swept wing and two large Mikulin AM-3 turbojets, one in each wing root. It could carry a single massive FAB-9000 9,000-kg (19,800 lb) conventional bomb (the Russian equivalent of the British Grand Slam bomb) or various nuclear weapons to a range of around 4,800 km (3,000 mi).

Although the Tu-16 began as a high-altitude, free-fall bomber, in the mid-1950s it was equipped to carry early Soviet cruise missiles. The Tu-16KS-1 (Badger-B) version could carry AS-1 missiles over a combat radius of 1,800 km (1,125 mi). These very large weapons were aerodynamically similar to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter, fitted with either a nuclear or conventional warhead, had a range of about 140 km (90 mi). They were intended for use primarily against US Navy aircraft carriers and other large surface ships. Subsequent Tu-16s were converted to carry later, more advanced missiles, while their designations changed several times.

A versatile design, the Tu-16 was built in numerous specialized variants for reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT), and electronic warfare (ECM). A total of 1,507 aircraft were constructed in three plants in the Soviet Union, in 1954–1962. A civilian adaptation, the Tupolev Tu-104, saw passenger service with Aeroflot. The Tu-16 was also exported to Egypt, Indonesia, and Iraq. It continued to be used by the Air Forces and naval aviation of the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia until 1993.

Delivery of the Tu-16 to China began in 1958, and the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (XAC) license produced under the Chinese designation Xian H-6. At least 120 of these aircraft remain in service. On 14 May 1965, one of the PLAAF Tu-16 bombers carried out the first airborne nuclear weapon test inside China.

Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Tupolev
First flight 27 April 1952
Introduction 1954
Retired 1993 (in former Soviet Union nations)
Primary users Soviet Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
Indonesian Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
Number built 1,509
Variants Tupolev Tu-104
Tupolev Tu-124
Xian H-6


General characteristics

  • Crew: Four
  • Length: 34.80 m (114 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 33.00 m (108 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 10.36 m (34 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 165 m (1,775 ft)
  • Empty weight: 37,200 kg (82,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 76,000 kg (168,00 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 79,000 kg (174,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 x Mikulin AM-3M-500 turbojets, 93.2 kN (20,900 lbf) each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 1,050 km/h (656 mph)
  • Range: 7,200 km (4,500 mi)
  • Service ceiling 12,800 m (42,000 ft)
  • Wing loading: 460 kg/m (94 lb/ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.24

Armament

  • Guns: 6-7 x 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons, two each in dorsal and ventral remote turrets and manned tail turret, with the occasional addition of one fixed forward in the nose
  • Bombs: 9,000 kg (20,000 lb) of free-fall weapons or
  • Missiles:
    • 1 x Kh-10 (AS-2 'Kipper') anti-ship missile semi-recessed in bomb bay or
    • 1 x Kh-26 (AS-6 'Kingfish') anti-ship missile on port underwing hardpoint

End notes